Want something to read? Here’s 5 liberal books to keep you going!

As the UK heads into at least three weeks of lockdown, here are some suggestions for Liberal Democrats in want of a good book.

British Liberal Leaders (2015) – Edited by Duncan Brack, Robert Ingham and Tony Little

British Liberal Leaders - British Leaders (Hardback)

The Wrath of Capital: Neoliberalism and Climate Change Politics – New Directions in Critical Theory (2014) – Adrian Parr

The Wrath of Capital: Neoliberalism and Climate Change Politics - New Directions in Critical Theory 48 (Paperback)

A fascinating case put foward by Adrian Parr. Here, Parr argues that only when we understand the dominating role played by capital in international diplomacy and environmental politics, can we begin to truly reshape our economy to support a stable and flourishing environment.

The End of History and the Last Man (2012 Penguin; 1st Edition) – Francis Fukuyama

 

The End of History and the Last Man (Paperback)

Fukuyama’s 1992 classic text proclaiming the victory of Western liberal democracy makes interesting reading in a decade of Brexit and Trump. A reminder of how quickly the global political landscape changes. Liberal democracy is fragile and needs constant work and protection.

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (2016) – Philip E Tetlock and Dan Gardener

Superforecasting

In what now feels like decades ago, Dominic Cummings told journalists waiting outside his London home to read Philip Tetlock’s book ‘Superforcasting’ to better understand sacked Downing Street adviser Andrew Sabinsky. Well…now you can!

Capital and Ideology (2020) – Thomas Piketty

Capital and Ideology

Following the success of Piketty’s first international bestselling tome ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ (2013), he has returned. This time, the French economist presents a volume almost twice the size as his initial bestseller. I can’t say I’ve finished this new volume, but it certainly is a work in progress!

Beighton Canvassing Session – Sheffield Lib Dems

The Sheffield Liberal Democrats had another successful canvassing session in Beighton yesterday evening.

Well done to the Lib Dem team for going out on the doors!

We even managed an action shot! (Featuring THREE Toms)

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Action Day – Sheffield Lib Dems

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1 February 2020: Action day with the Sheffield Liberal Democrats. Source: Laura Gordon (@LibDemLaura)

Out on the doorstep this morning to help elect two excellent candidates, Alan Woodcock and Ann Whittaker, to the council in May.

On the UK’s first day outside the European Union, it is more important now than ever to campaign for a liberal UK. That campaign starts with local politics and local councillors.

Labour’s Answer: A ‘People’s Vote’ for party members

Image result for labour.org.uk labour conference
Source: labour.org.uk

Labour Party members should be given a vote in an internal Brexit referendum before MPs vote on another proposed deal from Prime Minister Theresa May.

The ballot would ask:

“Should the Parliamentary Labour Party support Britain’s exit from the EU?”

 

  • Yes  (Leave)
  • No (Remain)

 

An internal party poll would be better than a ‘People’s Vote’ for three reasons.

  1. In 2015 and 2016, Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader having promised to give party members a greater say over party policy. Until now, many allies of the leader have worked hard to get Corbyn-friendly candidates elected onto party bodies. During Mr Corbyn’s leadership however, the membership’s role in influencing party policy has remained unchanged. If Mr Corbyn still believes in empowering grassroots members, then he would support this proposal.
  2. Second, the party would bear the cost of resolving its own split and not the taxpayer through a costly nationwide poll. One leading argument for those who are against another referendum is that it would cost money and take up much needed time on parliament’s already tight timetable. But an internal referendum, asking party members for their advice would not disrupt the existing timetable. The shadow cabinet has spent months explaining its ‘six tests’ and Brexit strategy. Therefore, shadow ministers would not need to embark on a lengthy campaign to persuade party members to vote one way or another. Members would be asked to reflect on an existing policy position.
  3. Third, this route would keep parliament sovereign as the internal referendum would be held at the request of Labour parliamentarians, seeking the advice of party members. Another criticism of a ‘People’s Vote’ is that like all referendums in the UK, they can threaten the ability of parliamentarians to make the final decision on political matters. Although this internal poll would also be unbinding, it is an opportunity for the leadership to better engage with the views of all members of the party.

If members vote to leave the EU, then Labour would whip its MPs to vote accordingly. Labour should request that a cross-party group be established to negotiate the terms of withdrawal instead of a one-party executive.

If members vote to remain in the EU, then the PLP would vote to withdraw Article 50 and seek to block any legislation that did not guarantee the same conditions as full membership.

I make this proposal as a long-time party member and supporter, seeking the most civil solution to an unwanted and artificial problem from the Cameron-era.

52123741_2269420073102093_2435900640480722944_n Tom Parkin is a Labour member, former CLP Youth Officer and Labour NEC candidate. He is currently studying International Relations and Politics at the University of Sheffield. (Twitter: @tompjparkin)

 

‘The Westminster Game Has Failed. So Let’s Change the Rules’ – article for ‘Pertinent Problems’

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Click here to view the article

‘Our democratic deficit is deeper than anyone wants to admit….Parliament is an old network for dead men and a country that no longer exists.’

Why 2016 will not be a Tory Wonderland

Why was 2015 the ‘Goldilocks Election’? Why can’t Osborne succeed as Conservative leader? Why will the Tories be forced to return to the dirty politics of the 1980s?

As 2015 draws to an end, the Prime Minister is sure to look back on the past twelve months with pride. Since January, the Tory leader has managed win a spectacular Conservative majority, secure a European referendum, control his backbenchers, effectively disband UKIP and outlast his two main election rivals. Additional internal conflict within the opposition benches has caused an apparent rise in the Tory party’s approval ratings – sometimes hitting the low 40s – unheard of during an era of recession.

But how is this possible? How has Cameron managed to end the year as the clear victor?
With the Scottish Conservatives having performed relatively badly in 2010, the Prime Minister had little to lose from the SNP’s sweep of the north. Nicola Sturgeon formed a nationalist ‘coup’ with the aim of thumping Cameron’s government at its weakest point – its lack of humanity. Instead, the ‘Scottish lion roared’ [1] (to quote former SNP leader Alex Salmond) and directed its fire towards Cameron’s only alternative – Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Fear with the economy, the increasing influence of the media and Tory myths also had parts to play in providing Cameron with a working majority of twelve MPs.

2016 is likely to be Cameron’s last full year at Number 10. From then, he is guaranteed a smooth exit from office – passing on his role to a loyal colleague such as Home Secretary Theresa May or (more likely) to school friend George Osborne. Gone are the bitter days of Ted Heath, Michael Heseltine and Margaret Thatcher.

Or so the Tories would like to think.

Unlike most of Cameron’s premiership, it may transpire that 2016 is the year when dirty Tory politics returns – the kind of image the Prime Minister has spent his decade at the top trying to hide.
Below are a string of issues which may stump leading Tories in the coming months:

Europe
   In the face of an apparently divided opposition, the Conservatives have kept together – desperate not to fall into the lengthy ideological debates which have engulfed the Labour Party for over seven months.
The Tory leader is keen to unite his cabinet around one central issue – the topic which has plagued the party for decades – Europe.
Even though Cameron is yet to declare which way he will vote, it’s pretty clear he doesn’t want the ‘out’ campaign to win. No matter how many times he strides into European summits attempting to appear the reformer, challenger and alpha male, we all know he does not want to leave office as the ‘isolationist’ Prime Minister that ordered Britain to ‘retreat’ from the world. He’s too worried about his legacy to do something as careless as that.

Although every general election is different, Conservatives are likely to examine the role played by key ministers in the run up to the vote of 2015. Party members will want to know the candidates that can successfully carry an image of modern ‘compassionate Conservatism’ and the ones who cannot.

I believe the Tory party won a majority for three reasons:

  • The public’s perception of Ed Miliband as a potential Prime Minister
  • The SNP
  • The existing First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) electoral system.

Like most elections, victory was formed from the collapse of the alternatives. For the Conservatives, the conditions were just right. It was a Goldilocks election.
A Prime Minister and Chancellor who remain loyal and trusting friends is a rarity in British politics – especially within Conservative politics. Most see this as the crux that will fulfil Osborne’s true ministerial ambitions.
Infact, most pundits predict Cameron’s iron chancellor and Etonian schoolmate will become Tory leader and Prime Minister. The Fixed Term Parliament Act of 2011 means that (if elected), Osborne will have over two years to mould his type of Conservatism before standing for election in 2020.
So far, Osborne (like Cameron) was able to shrug off his family background and education without significant damage to his reputation. But a more recent history is likely to stick with the frontrunner. Osborne is the face of 21st century austerity and is well known for missing his financial targets. But unlike Cameron, Osborne would not enter the leadership race as a youthful outsider. Having accepted the title of First Secretary of State, he is effectively the Prime Minister’s de facto deputy. But even this ministerial appointment may be too little too late for the political operator.
Beyond the recession, after the frontbenchers retire and after a new generation of Tories join the fray, George Osborne will be remembered as the Conservative chancellor that privatised, cut and shrank industry and like no other before him. He will live on as the patron saint of Conservatism – but for all the wrong reasons.

Ignore the polls, they tell you nothing
It’s worth noting that a year before his election as Tory leader in 2001, Iain Duncan Smith placed 6th in Ladbrokes’ leadership polls. Michael Howard was 7th in 2002 and Cameron 3rd in 2005. [2]

2016 is likely to be a significant year for the Conservatives. A quick transfer of power seems unlikely for a party that has recently become Britain’s slickest electoral machine. Alliances will be formed and secret deals made – that’s for sure. What remains unknown is what kind of Conservatism will enter the race for Number 10 in 2020.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-32641223
[2] http://news.ladbrokes.com/politics/tory-leadership-contests-a-betting-history.html